Laser hair removal is a common cosmetic procedure performed all over the U.S. and other parts of the world. It involves directing a beam of highly concentrated light onto the hair follicles. The pigment present in the follicles absorbs the light to destroy the hair. The hair follicle is damaged by the intense heat emanating from the laser therefore preventing growth of the hair. Laser hair treatment produces the best results for light skinned people with dark hair.
The International Association for Physicians in Aesthetic Medicine (IAPAM) is dedicated to providing valuable information to laser hair removal consultants in training. This guide has been created to prepare laser hair removal administrators in answering their customers’ questions and giving them the best treatment possible.
Even though the hair growth is slowed down by laser hair removal there is no guarantee it is a permanent hair removal technique. Usually it takes a series of multiple laser hair treatments to produce an extended period of hairlessness. Periodic maintenance is required in most cases as well.
Laser Hair Removal Treatment Areas
Generally, the most common areas for which permanent hair removal is sought are the legs, face, underarms and the bikini area. Some areas such as the bikini line call for a more precise treatment as that area is sensitive and home to a lot of tiny hair growth.
Benefits of the Treatment
Laser hair removal is useful for getting rid of any unwanted hair from different parts of the body. The benefits of laser hair treatment are precision, speed and predictability.
The lasers are precise at targeting the dark and coarse hairs while keeping the surrounding skin safe from damage. It takes a fraction of a second to send a pulse of laser and treat all the hairs in a small portion. The treatment can be completed quickly depending on the size of the area in question. For permanent hair removal of the entire back or legs it will only take an hour at most. The process has predictable results as most patients undergo hair loss after a few sessions.
Prepare the Patient
It is a medical professional’s duty to prepare the patient completely for the procedure and answer any questions and address all concerns they might have. The patients should also consult with their doctor before getting laser hair removal done as they are aware of the medical history and can give their professional advice on the matter.
The laser hair removal administrator must inform patients of all the benefits and risks and must give realistic expectations on the results received from the hair removal treatment. It is important to be truthful and speak candidly with the patient while giving information. The patient should be told about all treatment options and costs during their consultation. The number of sessions the patient requires must be communicated to them beforehand so they do not expect complete results after the first laser hair treatment.
Before and after photographs of the treated area can be taken to conduct assessments and review the difference especially between the first two visits to see how far the patient has come.
It is advised that patients who undergo laser hair removal stay out of direct sunlight as a tan can put them at increased risk of side-effects such as lightening of the skin. If the patient already has a tan from sun exposure or tanning beds, then they should wait until it fades before undergoing the permanent hair removal. It is best to avoid going out in the sun for at least six weeks before the laser hair treatment appointment.
Tweezing, waxing or removing hair by electrolysis is advised against six weeks before the laser hair removal treatment because these methods disrupt the hair follicle and interfere with the laser hair treatment process. There is no harm in shaving however, as it preserves the shaft and it prevents the laser from targeting the area above the skin which can cause burns.
Before and After Hair Removal Treatments
Before the laser hair treatment, the hair on the area to be treated is often trimmed with scissors. The patient is also given special goggles to protect their eyes from the laser beam. Usually, an anesthetic is applied to the skin to minimize any discomfort.
A hand-held instrument that emits the laser beam is pressed onto the skin. It usually has a cooling device attached or cool gel is applied for protection of the skin. When the laser is turned on, a beam passes through the skin to the tiny hair follicles where the growth originates. They are damaged by the intense heat inhibiting hair growth. There is some discomfort and the patient experiences a cold sensation from cooling gel or device.
After the procedure is completed there is noticeable redness and swelling for a few hours. The discomfort can be reduced by applying ice to the area that is treated. The patients who suffer from a skin reaction after the laser hair removal are prescribed a steroid cream to treat the affected area.
After the treatment, the patient is advised to stay indoors and limit sun exposure both naturally and through tanning treatments. When the skin has healed, the patients can step outdoors as long as they apply generous amounts of sunscreen. There is the possibility of hair shedding the following few days after a treatment for permanent hair removal. It is completely normal and should not be mistaken for regrowth of hair.
Recovery and Risks
A few days after the laser hair removal, the area that has undergone treatment will appear sunburnt. A cool compress and moisturizer helps calm the inflamed skin. Unless there are blisters on the skin, it is alright to wear makeup the next day after the treatment.
The hair in the treated area continues to fall out during the following month. The patient should wear sunscreen to help avoid any changes in the treated skin’s color. Blisters are rarely ever formed in patients but are more likely to occur in those with darker complexions. Other possible side-effects are redness, swelling and scarring but they are never permanent and there is no change in the color of the skin.
Multiple sessions extend the duration of hair loss which may go up to a maximum of a few years. However, regrowth is still possible and to obtain the best results four to six sessions can be planned with a gap of six weeks in between each treatment. Additionally, maintenance visits are required annually or biannually depending on the patient.
The results of the laser hair treatment vary with each person depending on the area that is treated and their skin and hair type.
Result for Blonde Hair and Fair Skin
The heat source of the laser is attracted to pigments which are usually found in darker hair. Blonde hair lacks enough pigment to absorb the heat making the laser hair removal unreliable and unable to produce the desired results.
Lasers have now been specially developed for fair skinned and light haired patients which is effective at removing unwanted hair. This laser operates at a higher intensity and blasts the hair with pigment required to attract heat and get an effective permanent hair removal treatment.
Results for Brown Skin
Laser hair treatment is more challenging for those who have darker or brown skin. Dark skin tones are not easy to treat with laser because the light has difficulty in differentiating between the skin and hair since they are often of the same color. Permanent hair treatment offers best results when the skin color contrasts the hair color.
Brown skinned patients are also at risk of discoloration due to laser hair removal. The beam might kill the skin tissue surrounding the hair and cause discoloration and permanent scarring. However, there is a solution for these types of patients as well in a specifically designed laser instrument which reduces the chances of skin damage and scarring among dark skinned patients.
Results for Olive Skin
Olive skinned patients with dark hair get effective results from their laser hair treatment since there is a pronounced distinction between the color of their hair and the color of the skin. The laser can efficiently identify the hair follicle and attack it keeping the surrounding skin unharmed and intact.
Effects of Hair Thickness and Density
It is more difficult to remove thicker hair which is usually the case in male patients whose hair is thicker than female’s. Older adults are easier to treat because their hair is thinner than the younger adults. If the area of treatment is sensitive, such as the face, it will require a more exacting treatment than thick-skinned areas such as legs.
Time Frame for Visible Results
To achieve permanent hair removal, several sessions of laser hair treatment are required. This is because the hair cycle and thickness of the hair follicle continues to change and the lasting result is not visible immediately. The initial three treatments are performed within four to six weeks of each other. Most people are able to see visible changes in the growth of their hair after the first six months.